Michael Hibblen

News Director

Michael Hibblen is the News Director for UA Little Rock Public Radio. He oversees news coverage for KUAR, which includes assignments for the staff, helping develop story ideas, editing news copy and ensuring accuracy and fairness in all reporting. Michael is also a regular panelist and fill-in host on AETN's Arkansas Week, where journalists discuss issues in the news.

A native of North Little Rock, Michael started in radio in 1988, spending his first five years as a DJ for music stations in central and northeast Arkansas. After a 1993 internship at the C-SPAN Cable Network in Washington, DC, he transitioned to news, working for commercial radio stations KARN in Little Rock, WRVA in Richmond, Virginia and WIOD in Miami, Florida. In 2000, Michael became a nationally-heard, Miami-based reporter for CBS Radio News, covering major stories in the region, including the anthrax attack at a tabloid publisher, an international custody fight over Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez, and the 2000 presidential election recount. He was hired by the newspaper The Miami Herald in 2003 when it partnered with NPR station WLRN to provide local news. Michael initially worked as a morning news anchor and reporter, later became the department's editor and then assistant news director. He also wrote frequently for the newspaper.

Michael returned home to Arkansas in 2009 to work for KUAR. At that time he resumed taking classes at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to finish his Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication, graduating in May 2013. Michael also enjoys researching radio and railroad history in the state and is the author of Rock Island Railroad in Arkansas, which was published by Arcadia Publishing in April 2017. He maintains a personal website with more on his career and outside interests at www.hibblenradio.com.

Phone: 501-683-7386

Email: michael@kuar.org

Ways to Connect

Attorney and state Rep. John Walker of Little Rock.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas civil rights attorney and state lawmaker John Walker has died. He was 82. The Pulaski County Coroner’s Office says he died Monday at his home in Little Rock. A cause was not immediately reported.

Dr. Alex Biris, director and chief scientist at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Services.
UA Little Rock

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has been awarded a $5.6 million grant to advance technology with the potential to regenerate bones. The funding from the U.S. Department of Defense goes toward work on an implantable medical device known as NuCress scaffold, which has been in development since 2006.

It holds the promise of helping people with what have been considered untreatable injuries experience bone regeneration in places where parts of a bone are missing. In particular, researchers say it could help people avoid having limbs amputated because of injuries.

DHS Division of Children and Family Services Director Mischa Martin points to a chart included in the report showing improvements to Arkansas's child welfare system during a meeting with reporters Wednesday.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A new report from the state says Arkansas is making major progress toward improving its child welfare system, which drew praise from Gov. Asa Hutchinson Wednesday. A few years ago the state had a disproportionate number kids in foster care, workers with unmanageable caseloads and partners who said they weren’t getting the support needed.

Arkansas State Fair
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The 2019 Arkansas State Fair kicks off Friday, running through Sunday, Oct. 20. At the fairgrounds along Roosevelt Road in Little Rock, rides are being assembled and game booths set up. General Manager Doug White says several new rides will be among the more than 60 rides on the midway.

Last year, six days of rain hurt attendance, he said. The fair typically averages 400,000 to 450,000 people each year. This year, White is hoping to exceed that.

Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

As President Donald Trump’s administration blocked a U.S. diplomat from testifying in the impeachment investigation regarding Ukraine, Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson reiterated Tuesday that there are "legitimate questions that have been asked based upon a whistleblower’s complaint."

Hutchinson served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1990s and was one of the Republican impeachment managers who led the investigation of President Bill Clinton.

Mural
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A mural touting peace and civil rights is being expanded by a group of artists in Little Rock. They’re painting the mural on large concrete walls under railroad overpasses on West 7th Street, just west of the state Capitol. It’s being done as part of the 2019 Arkansas Peace Week, which includes a number of events throughout the state.

The mural was first painted three years ago, but artist Jose Hernandez says several of the scenes were hit with graffiti, including white spray paint used to cover up people’s faces.

Harding University
www.harding.edu

Private colleges and universities in Arkansas are having to change their strategies for recruiting students amid a reduction in prospective students. A number of factors are forcing the schools to rethink their business plans and marketing. The top factor is simply that Americans are having fewer children.

Arkansas Business Editor Gwen Moritz wrote about that for a story in this week's issue:

Will Trice
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The new executive artistic director for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre is getting settled into his new position. In January it was announced that Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Will Trice, who is a Little Rock native, had accepted the position. But he had to spend several months in New York wrapping up affairs there before moving back to Arkansas.

Senator John Boozman
George Jared / Talk Business & Politics

Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas is cosponsoring legislation that attempts to address a shortage of physicians. Medical school graduates are required to complete residency training to begin practicing, but Boozman says a 1997 cap on Medicare funding has led to a shortage of available residencies in the state.

"We have a situation where we have a lot of people graduating from medical school and then can’t find residencies in Arkansas. So as a result, probably 40 percent of them go out of state. Many of them never come back," Boozman said.

Kimberly Blackshire-Lee Charles Starks police shooting
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A two-day hearing begins Thursday at 8 a.m. for former Little Rock police officer Charles Starks who is appealing his termination for the shooting death of a suspect in a stolen car. On the eve of the hearing, relatives of Bradley Blackshire delivered an envelope to City Hall which they said contained petitions signed by over 2,000 people who are opposed to Starks being reinstated.

Solar Array
Arkansas Business

A new Arkansas law taking effect is allowing local governments, agencies and schools to partner with third-party companies to building solar projects. Arkansas Business reporter Kyle Massey writes in this week’s issue about what’s coming together to make this possible.

Rick Vance is regional director for Entegrity Energy Partners LLC of Little Rock, one of several Arkansas solar providers riding the wave as local governments, agencies and schools plunge into a new solar mainstream.

National Weather Service

The remnants of Hurricane Barry are forecast to move into Arkansas on Sunday. Agriculture officials are concerned the heavy rainfall could be detrimental to the state’s rice crop, which has already been hampered by a wet spring and recent hot weather.

Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, says the crop is extremely vulnerable at this point and that rain could disrupt pollination. 

Mosaic Templars
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, which tells the story of African-Americans in Arkansas, is striving to raise $3 million to renovate its educational exhibit space. The museum opened in 2008 in a spot that was once the heart of Little Rock’s black community.

During a ceremony Monday with Gov. Asa Hutchinson at the state Capitol, backers of the fundraising campaign accepted the museum’s largest-ever corporate donation. Union Pacific Railroad, which employed about 2,600 people in the state as of last year, gave $300,000 toward the campaign.

naloxone
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Amid an epidemic of opioid deaths, Arkansas school nurses are being equipped with an antidote that can reverse overdoses. During a ceremony Tuesday at the state Capitol, Gov. Asa Hutchinson presented several nurses with naloxone kits, saying they will provide an "important lifesaving capability for our schools."

Storm
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Utility crews are working to restore electricity in central and south Arkansas after a powerful storm hit the state Wednesday night quickly bringing down trees and power lines. Damage is extensive in some areas and Entergy Arkansas warns it could be a few days before power is back on for all customers.

The National Weather Service says the highest wind speed was measured at 64 miles-per-hour, but Meteorologist Sean Clark says tree damage suggests winds exceeded that in some locations.

Civil rights attorneys Mike Laux (left) and Benjamin Crump at a press conference in December regarding the Little Rock Police Department's use of no-knock raids.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A civil rights attorney representing several people who claimed they were unfairly targeted by Little Rock police with no-knock raids says he’s encouraged by the department’s effort to reform its policy. On Wednesday, Police Chief Keith Humphrey unveiled a new threat assessment system that will be used to determine when carrying out a search warrant rises to the level of a no-knock raid.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen taking part in an anti-death penalty demonstration in front of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion in April 2017.
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

An ethics complaint has been dismissed against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen for taking part in a death penalty demonstration in April 2017 on the same day he blocked the state from using an execution drug. Now Griffen is demanding he be given back the power to consider death penalty cases.

Linda Collins-Smith
Arkansas Legislature

A remembrance is set for Tuesday at the Arkansas State Capitol for former state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith. Her body was found last Tuesday at her home in Pocahontas and police are treating the death as a homicide.

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he is "anxious for success" as the U.S. negotiates with China over trade tariffs. The escalating trade war has rattled markets, with soybean prices falling to their lowest levels in a decade.

"We’re praying that the president will be successful in these negotiations," Hutchinson said in an interview with KUAR News.

Dr. Brian Nichol medical marijuana doctor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas’s second medical marijuana dispensary opened one day earlier than expected. Green Springs Medical in Hot Springs began selling to people Sunday at about 4:15 p.m., according to KTHV-TV. It follows the opening Friday evening of Doctor’s Orders RX, which is also in Hot Springs. A steady stream of people lined up at the first dispensary through the weekend wanting to be among the first to get the drug.

marijuana
npr.org

Arkansas’s first medical marijuana dispensary has been approved to open, though it’ll likely be about a week before it has product for sale. The state’s Alcohol Beverage Control, which is part of the Department of Finance and Administration and regulates medical marijuana, announced Friday that inspectors went through Doctor’s Orders RX in Hot Springs with the local fire marshal and found it met all required standards.

Arkansas Death Chamber Lethal Injection
Department of Correction

It’s now up to U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to decide whether Arkansas’s lethal injection protocol inflicts unconstitutional pain and suffering on condemned inmates. For eight days she has heard arguments and testimony in the lawsuit by a group of death row inmates who allege the sedative midazolam, which is the first of three drugs used, is not effective at keeping inmates unconscious when subsequent drugs shut down the body.

Wendy Kelley
Arkansas Public Media

A federal trial regarding Arkansas’s use of the sedative midazolam in lethal injections is wrapping up. On Wednesday, just over a week since the trial began, attorneys for the state called their final witness. Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley is named along with Gov. Asa Hutchinson as a defendant in the lawsuit by a group of death row inmates who claim the drug isn’t enough to keep inmates unconscious during the process.

Varner Arkansas Department of Correction Cummins Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Attorneys defending the state in a lawsuit by Arkansas death row inmates challenging the use of a drug in lethal injections called a series of officials to the stand Tuesday who witnessed executions carried out two years ago. They included the warden who organized the executions, a former prosecutor and two state senators, with all testifying that the inmates did not seem to experience any pain.

Little Rock federal courthouse
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Attorneys for the state began calling witnesses Monday in a lawsuit brought by 18 Arkansas death row inmates who are challenging the use of the drug midazolam in lethal injections. Testimony by a pharmacologist and an anesthesiologist directly contradicted witnesses in similar positions and testified last week for the plaintiffs.

Federal courthouse
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An anesthesiologist testified Friday in the lawsuit brought by a group of Arkansas death row inmates that two of the prisoners who were put to death in 2017 likely suffered "excruciating" pain because of the first drug used in the state’s lethal injection process. Dr. Gail Van Norman from Seattle said that’s because midazolam has no significant clinical anesthetic effects.

Arkansas Death Chamber Lethal Injection
Department of Correction

Testimony in a federal lawsuit over Arkansas’s use of the sedative midazolam in lethal injections shifted Wednesday from witnesses of recent executions to expert testimony. Attorneys for a group of death row inmates are trying to establish that the execution process inflicts unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Craig W. Stevens, a professor of pharmacology at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa, said that midazolam, which is the first of three drugs used, would not effectively keep inmates from feeling the following drugs, which stop the heart and paralyze the muscles.

Little Rock federal courthouse
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal trial is underway with a group of Arkansas death row inmates challenging the state’s use of a sedative which is the first of three drugs used in the current lethal injection protocol. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that midazolam is not effective in fully knocking prisoners unconscious before the lethal drugs are administered, causing an unnecessary amount of pain. An attorney for the state said the inmates can’t prove its use is unconstitutional.

Asa Hutchinson signing bills
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

All bills passed during the 2019 session of the Arkansas General Assembly have been signed into law. Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not veto any bills this year. He signed the final pieces of legislation Wednesday afternoon alongside several lawmakers.

A formal adjournment is set to take place next Wednesday when lawmakers return to the Capitol for Sine Die. In some previous years, that has been when senators and representatives have had to consider whether to attempt to override gubernatorial vetoes, something that won’t be necessary this time.

A book looks at the murder of an Arkansas woman and the impact such a horrific incident had on family members of the victim. Genie Massey wrote about the death of her aunt Tresia Jester who was shot late one night on March 21, 1992 in Pine Bluff.

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